Navigating a 2D Virtual World Using Direct Brain Stimulation
Publication DateNovember 16 2016
DescriptionAbstract: Can the human brain learn to interpret inputs from a virtual world delivered directly through brain stimulation? We answer this question by describing the first demonstration of humans playing a computer game utilizing only direct brain stimulation and no other sensory inputs. The demonstration also provides the first instance of artificial sensory information, in this case depth, being delivered directly to the human brain through non-invasive methods. Our approach utilizes transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) of the human visual cortex to convey binary information about obstacles in a virtual maze. At certain intensities, TMS elicits visual percepts known as phosphenes, which transmit information to the subject about their current location within the maze. Using this computer–brain interface, five subjects successfully navigated an average of 92% of all the steps in a variety of virtual maze worlds. They also became more accurate in solving the task over time. These results suggest that humans can learn to utilize information delivered directly and non-invasively to their brains to solve tasks that cannot be solved using their natural senses, opening the door to human sensory augmentation and novel modes of human–computer interaction.